On a missions trip to the Philippine Islands years ago I stayed in a large downtown hotel in the capital city of Manila. I was headed toward Iloilo City where I preached to large crowds for missionary Rick Martin. I was actually in Manila over night on the 4th of July, and the name of the hotel restaurant there was called “The 4th of July.” The restaurant theme was about America. It made me feel very much at home coinciding with our Independence Day. Besides a strong American missionary presence in the Philippine Islands, the Philippines have also always been strong political allies of the USA. When my son, Dan, served on a missions trip in the Philippines, everywhere he went they called him “Joe,” a take-off from G.I. Joe of World War II days.
I knew a newspaper publisher years ago who said that America is great because America is free. The French philosopher de Tocqueville went a step further. He said America is great because America is good. And he said the key to America’s greatness is found in its churches.
I am a prolific reader of history. My favorite early American patriot is Patrick Henry. Four times elected governor of Virginia, he is regarded as perhaps the greatest orator in American political history. When Patrick Henry would rise to speak in the Virginia legislature, the hallways and offices would empty as people crowded in to hear him. He most likely could have been elected President of the U.S., but he chose not to run. After his wife died he remarried and had a 2nd family — nearly 15 children altogether. As he aged, he still had young children. He felt a tremendous responsibility to stay home and raise the children. He was a devout Christian.
Patrick Henry is most famous for his words, “Give me liberty or give me death!” But Patrick Henry also said, “It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians — not on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ!” When the state of Virginia arrested Jeremiah Moore, a Baptist preacher, for preaching without state approval, Patrick Henry defended him in court and won their release. “Great God, gentlemen!” he cried out, “a man in prison for preaching the gospel of the Son of God!”
Let’s celebrate America this 4th of July!